It will likely take planning, preparation and perseverance to get through the longest ballot in Colorado history amid unprecedented turnout for the historic 2008 election. Even though more than half of the state’s active voters have already cast a ballot, it all comes down to Election Day, when as many as one million Colorado residents will trek to their local polling place and exercise their right to vote.
Here’s what Colorado voters need to be able to vote on Election Day:
• The polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and voters in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Plan on a long wait — bring an iPod, a magazine or a friend to keep each other company. Depending on physical condition, some voters may want to bring folding chairs in case the lines are extremely long. Lines are usually longest at the very start of voting, over the lunch hour and after work, so voting mid-morning or mid-afternoon could help avoid longer lines.
• Must be registered to vote by Oct. 6. Check the nonpartisan Just Vote Colorado site to confirm your registration. If you believe you are registered but don’t show up in the records, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-888-687-8683) for assistance from the same group.
• Show up at your neighborhood polling place. Because polling places change from year to year, and information from candidates isn’t always correct, verify your polling place before heading to the polls. No one wants to wait in line only to find it’s the school, not the church, and have to start all over.
• Colorado voters must bring suitable identification to vote. The list of acceptable forms of I.D. is long — see the list at the bottom of this page — but includes a valid driver’s license or state-issued I.D. card, as well as multiple options if these aren’t available.
• If you’re sure you’re registered and you’re sure (remember, check you’re at the right polling place before heading to the polls), you can request a provisional ballot and cast your vote that way. Provisional ballots will be verified and then, if valid, counted after regular ballots, so it’s worth double-checking your voter info before casting one. Most provisional ballots are cast because voters wind up at the wrong polling place — an easy mistake to avoid by checking Just Vote Colorado. Provisional votes cast at the wrong polling place will be thrown out and not counted, so don’t assume because you’re registered a provisional ballot will count.
• Early voting in Colorado ended on Friday but hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots have yet to be returned. Many voters plan to drop their ballots off on Election Day — if you didn’t mail your ballot by Friday, it’s too late to mail it now and must be delivered to the right location — but it’s important to check where to drop off your mail-in ballot. In some counties, any polling place will do, but in many counties you’ll have to find a central location to deliver your ballot. Important: It’s too late to mail mail-in ballots, and they must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. Check for the nearest drop off for mail-in ballots and select your county from the pulldown menu labeled “OR get ballot drop-off and polling places for County.” Many counties are offering drive-by drop-off locations for mail-in ballots.
Voters who requested mail-in ballots but have not received them in time to vote can fill out a provisional ballot and attest that they haven’t otherwise voted. Contact your county election officials (select your county from the pulldown menu) to find out how to do this.
Reach the same officials if you or a member of your family needs to request an emergency absentee ballot — anyone hospitalized or unable to make it to the polls after the deadline to request a mail-in ballot can write a statement affirming their condition and allow a relative by blood or marriage to retrieve and deliver an emergency absentee ballot.
Here’s a link to an interactive map to find contact information for your county’s election department, where you can verify registration, find polling places and learn where to drop off mail-in ballots that haven’t already been mailed. And here’s a printable list of county election officials with detailed contact information.
There’s a 100-foot rule that prohibits campaigning within shouting distance of the polls, so keep those Obama shirts and McCain hats in the car, or be prepared to turn them inside out before entering.
Some polling places using electronic vote machines also restrict cell phone use near the machines, so plan conversations accordingly — voters at these polls won’t be allowed to use a lifeline and call a friend for help sorting through the ballot measures, for instance.
About those ballot measures — this year’s amended ballot has 14 statewide questions — and though four of them (Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57) were withdrawn by their supporters last month they still appear on the ballot. The rest include the controversial Personhood Amendment, a so-called Right-to-Work measure and a move to raise mineral severance taxes to fund higher ed.
A few of the ballot questions are worded simply and straightforwardly, but many aren’t, so it’s a good idea to determine how you’ll vote before entering the voting booth. All registered voters should have received the state’s Blue Book with arguments for and against statewide ballot measures, as well as information on judges facing retention votes — it’s fine to take a marked-up copy of that into the polls. The Blue Book is also available online as a PDF. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters Colorado ballot guide is also available online. Voters may also want to browse Project Vote Smart for online resources.
While the vast majority of Colorado voters will be able to cast a ballot without a hitch, here are resources for voters who encounter problems voting:
• The nonpartisan Just Vote Colorado organization has an online form voters can fill out to report a problem voting.
• Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-888-687-8683) to report a problem and ask for assistance from the same group.
• Call 303-863-VOTE (8683) to reach the League of Women Voters hot line.
• This printable HAVA form allows Coloradans to file complaints alleging violations of the federal Help America Vote Act — everything from a polling place that closes early to inaccessibility for disabled voters.
• While it probably won’t be your first call, if you encounter problems voting — including extremely long lines, voter intimidation or violation of election rules — send an e-mail to the Colorado Independent so we can let other know about it.
Just Vote Colorado prepared this three-minute video to explain the basics of voting, including tips on how to deal with some of the more common problems voters might encounter:
Whether your voting experience is seamless or fraught, voters with videocams are encouraged to document their experience and share it with others at the Video Your Vote site, sponsored by PBS and YouTube.
Here’s a list of acceptable identification for voting, as listed on the Colorado Election Protection Web site:
A valid Colorado driver’s license;
A valid identification card issued by the Department of Revenue in accordance with the requirements of part 3 of article 2 of title 42, C.R.S.;
A valid United States passport;
A valid employee identification card with a photograph issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government or of this state, or by any county, municipality, board, authority, or other political subdivision of this state;
A valid pilot’s license issued by the federal aviation administration or other authorized agency of the United States;
A valid United States military identification card with a photograph;
A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and address;
A valid Medicare or Medicaid card issued by the United States health care financing administration;
A certified copy of your birth certificate issued in the United States;
Certified documentation of naturalization; or
A valid student identification card with a photograph issued by an institution of higher education in Colorado, as defined in section 23-3.1-102 (5), C.R.S.
If you do not have one of these forms of identification, you will be required to fill out a provisional ballot.